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MB&F, what friends are for

MB&F, what friends are for

Friday, 29 March 2013
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

“The desire to learn is the key to understanding.”

“Thirty years in journalism are a powerful stimulant for curiosity”.

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3 min read

Regular updates on what’s happening at the brand, globetrotting to meet and greet fans, and close relations with the “friends” who help make it all happen, MB&F is the perfect specimen of horological networking.

No two days are alike at the MAD Gallery in Geneva’s old town. The venue, which MB&F opened in January last year to show contemporary artists whose vision matches their own retro-futurist concept of time measurement, is the perfect place to soak up the brand’s philosophy. In fact its timepieces are one of the residents’ biggest inspirations, as illustrated by the latest to date, Horological Machine N°5 On the Road Again.

One step beyond

This deceptively simple machine is in truth extremely complex. The bi-directional jumping hours with inversed indications are reflected 90° upwards and magnified 20% by a convex lens; the futuristic design of the zirconium case takes its cue from the 1970s Amida Digitrend. It of course houses a mechanical movement, with flaps that open to let in light to charge the Superluminova hour and minute discs. Exhaust ports drain moisture that might enter between the case and the watertight inner compartment that protects the movement. This fifth piece in the Horological Machine series is evidently no exception to MB&F’s skunkworks mentality: the timepieces that come out of its workshops are as far outside the box as it’s possible to be.

Outside the box maybe, but critically acclaimed too. At the last Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, in November 2012, MB&F’s Legacy Machine N°1 – whose three-dimensional movement features a large balance suspended from twin arches above the dial, and a vertical power-reserve indicator – claimed the Men’s Watch Prize and the Public Prize. “We’re not scrambling for awards,” says Virginie Meylan, who is trade marketing manager for the brand, “but it’s true that in Asia, a watch that wins prizes is all the more in demand.” Indeed, the brand’s award-winning aura has sparked an increase in production from 180 watches in 2010 to two hundred in 2012 and a target of 230 this year.

Legacy Machine N° 1 in red gold © MB&F
One on one

Employing 14 staff including four watchmakers, MB&F is limited by what it can physically produce. “The demand is there and the watches go quickly in that they’re ready for delivery when they’re presented,” continues Virginie Meylan. Stepping up the pace some more, the number of MB&F outlets is growing. The brand currently has around 30 points of sale, including in Venezuela, Jordan and Qatar where it opened in 2012, with more lined up for this year. Part of the secret to success is to be present at all times and on every front. Founder Maximilian Büsser has lost count of the number of times he’s been round the world. He’s now seconded by Charris Yadigaroglou. Virginie Meylan emphasises the importance of personal contact for the brand: “We need to explain what we’re doing, our concept of time measurement, to clients whom we want to involve in the process. It’s the same with our Friends. As a ‘small’ brand we’re ultimately dependent on these close relations which we’ve made a priority.”

On the cards this year are the forthcoming opening of a second MAD Gallery in Taiwan and a Legacy Machine N°2, with number three already on the test bench along with Horological Machine N°7. When Maximilian Büsser stepped up to collect his awards at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève last year, he told the judges “thank you, and hopefully I’ll go on impressing you.” So far, so good!

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